More thoughts on the a77

I took the a77 for a spin today on my usual walkabout around the forest next to my place, alongside the 70-300 G, the 50mm and the 28mm. I had in mind to test some settings, taking some river shots, try the continuous shooting (supposed to be pretty amazing), and pretty much just get the feeling on how I have to adapt to the a77, how to adapt it to me, what I like, what I don’t. Granted a 2 hours walk isn’t enough for a thorough “examination” but a good start on building a first impression. No interesting shots in today’s post mainly because I took a lot of test ones and nothing “beautiful”. I guess some of you would be interested in test shots but mine are far less appealing than some more professional reviews you can find on major websites. I’ll just post an ISO50 shot because I was really impressed by the results.

The first thing I have been able to form sort of a conclusion on is the SD card/buffer equation. Last week, I had a class 4 SD card, today, I used a class 10. And what a pleasant surprise! Shots were readily available for preview if needed, after a 15 shots burst the buffer was ready in just a few seconds (I’ll time it but just keeping an eye on it for the sake of it confirmed the amelioration), no pause whatsoever during continuous shooting.. So, thumbs up here!

On other thing I wanted to see was how well the EVF and the top screen would react to different lighting conditions. I have read comments on how impossible it was to read anything on the top screen in sunlight, and to be frank, I tilted the camera in every single possible angle and the only time I wasn’t able to read the display was… well, when I wasn’t looking at it. So no complaints here, at all. On the other hand, the EVF needs some getting used to. I think that having the EVF effects turned on is at the same time a good and a bad thing. A good thing because it basically gives you a pretty accurate preview of what you’re about to shoot, a bad thing because it can be darker at times, too contrasty depending on the sun, so on so forth. I admit I tweaked the EVF display through the “creative style” menu (even when shooting RAW, you get a preview of any style setting you choose but it doesn’t affect your final result, because you shoot RAW) to have it less saturated and contrasty, but still. I should try it with the EVF effects off.

Something I found myself missing is a rather silly thing. With my old OVF, camera off, I used to take a look at what was in front of me through the OVF just to see if what I was looking at was still interesting through the camera. I kept doing this with the a77 but when the camera is off, the EVF is off. So yeah. Too bad.

I also tested the AF accuracy through some simple tests,  shooting a very thin branch at 300mm, using the continuous AF to see how well it reacts when shooting moving subjects, etc. Nothing to extensive but basic things I usually need to perfectly work. Nothing to complain about, the AF is usually spot on, at 300mm it’s still hard to stay still but the a77 managed to do a fine job of focusing where and when needed.

I also took a more in depth look at the focus peaking feature. As long as the contrast on your subject is high enough, it too is spot on, pretty much the same way the AF works. Focus peaking is apparently incompatible with the focus magnifier feature, I would have loved being able to use both at the same time.

Something that still amazes me now that I think about it is the ISO 50. Damn, it’s flawless. With studio lighting it should be such a treat. More to come on studio lighting in a coming post by the way. Here’s a shot I took this morning, my two favorite sins.

Coffee and Photography

One more thing. I really feel the lack of a vertical grip. I have one on my a450 and I naturally tilt the camera sideways and shoot away. Today, when shooting portrait, it was sometimes complicated to shoot straight. I am planning on buying a grip sometime soon but this can wait as I have more “urgent” plans in mind. But it would theoretically help the battery life out. 340-ish shots and 40% down from a full charge is not that good in my opinion. I’ve read the EVF uses more battery than the LCD screen, counter-intuitively,  so I guess it also derives from my personal way of using the a77.

Something important every SLT user should bare in mind is that whatever you see in the EVF usually looks better once imported in, say, Lightroom. I was pretty impressed at firts by the EVF accuracy but now that I have been PP a77 files more and more, I definitely see a difference. So don’t rush on discarding a shot that looks too noisy (for instance) until you actually get to take a look on a real screen. I think I might have lost quite a few shots today because of that now that I have LR open in front of me.

And finally, just for the kicks, here is a second version of the same ISO50 shot from this morning. I wanted a color version as well as a b&w one because this is actually my first shot ever that came out of Lightroom with NO noise reduction treatment whatsoever. Flawless…

Coffee and Photography - BW


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